Obama Urges Senators To Seize ‘Historic Opportunity’
In a meeting Sunday with Senate Democrats, President Obama urged "a fractious Democratic caucus to pull together to pass landmark health-care legislation," eschewing any policy particulars such as abortion or the public option, The Washington Post reports. A White House spokesman said Obama reminded senators of their "historic opportunity to provide stability and security for those who have insurance, affordable coverage for those who don't, and bring down the cost of health care for families, small businesses and the government" (Murray and Montgomery, 12/7).
The Associated Press: Obama played to fears, as well as historic hopes. "Casting health care overhaul as a legacy for the American people and failure as politically unthinkable, [Obama] rallied Senate Democrats to deliver on their party's half-century quest to expand the social safety net by providing access for all" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 12/6).
The Boston Globe: "Obama cast the health care bill as one of a series of important legislative responses to extraordinary problems facing the nation this year, and exhorted the caucus to meet the expectations of the American people and the needs of the uninsured, [lawmakers] said" (Wangsness, 12/7).
The Christian Science Monitor: The bill's passage would require the vote of every member of the Senate's Democratic caucus. "Democratic senators hinted at the softening of hard lines within the caucus" Sunday, such as on abortion and the public option (Chaddock, 12/6).
CQ Politics: This meeting wasn't Obama's first attempt to woo or motivate senators. He's brought a number of fence-sitting moderates to the Oval Office for a chat. "Now, as the first senator since John F. Kennedy to be elected to the White House, Obama is using the Senate traditions of personal relationships and private ego-stroking to advance his agenda" (Koffler, 12/7).
The Washington Times noted that Democrats ceded control of the Senate to their Republican counterparts in order to attend the meeting. "Theoretically, it would give Republicans the power to throw out the health care bill, because there would have been no Democratic senator on the floor to object and stop the move. ... But top Republicans and Democrats made a gentleman's agreement ahead of time that there wouldn't be any trickery." Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said: "So I suggested to the majority leader that we be allowed to speak, and we worked that out on our first bipartisan moment on this bill" (Haberkorn, 12/7).